BY Art Thiel 05:37PM 01/20/2018

Thiel: ‘No real signs,’ Leach says of Hilinski

In his first interview since Tyler Hilinski took his own life, Washington State coach Mike Leach said nothing in the quarterback’s behavior indicated mental health issues.

Mike Leach flew back from Florida in time for a candlelight vigil on the Washington State campus Friday. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

In the hours before he took his life, Tyler Hilinski went for a run and texted teammates about getting together for some throwing. Coach Mike Leach said there was nothing in that day or in days prior indicating that Washington State’s presumptive starting quarterback was having problems that would lead to suicide by gunshot Tuesday.

“Talking to everybody on this whole thing, there were no real signs,” Leach said Saturday afternoon to media via teleconference, his first public comments since the university and the sports nation were stunned by the tragedy. “Everybody’s got some dark space, but nobody saw anything like that. He didn’t have signs of depression. He didn’t have periods where he was moping around or anything like that.

“Honestly he was a very steady guy. Hadn’t really had any issues . . . some ups and downs of a college student.”

Leach’s last conversation with the redshirt sophomore was by phone two days after the Cougars’ Holiday Bowl loss Dec. 30 to Michigan State. Hilinski, 21, had gone home to Claremont, CA.

“He was back with his family,” he said. “They ended up taking a trip to Cabo (Mexico). Just generally (talked) about moving forward and having a great off-season; building and developing for next year.”

Leach described Hilinski the way many of his teammates have.

“He was  always a very optimistic guy,” he said. “One of those guys who would come bouncing into the room. He brought energy to rooms, groups, and huddles. He always had a lot of energy.”

Leach flew from his home in Key West, FL., to Pullman Thursday and was part of a campus candlelight vigil Friday that drew many teammates, students and alums. The crowd, which created a makeshift memorial around the Cougar statue, appeared to be more than a thousand despite the chilly evening and 24-hour notice. It included the player’s parents, Kym and Mark, and older brother Kelly.

Also attending was Luke Falk, the fifth-year senior and the Pac-12’s all-time passing leader who returned to Pullman from Los Angeles, where he is training for the NFL scouting combine ahead of the draft. He wept openly for much of the hour-long event.

Leach said he had a meeting with the entire team, one of several that also included school counselors helping players cope with the loss of a popular team leader.

Counselors “set a course for healing; everyone does it at a difference place and a different way,” Leach said. “People talked about what Tyler meant to them. Basically, the meetings were all similar from the standpoint of re-enforcing that everybody being together provides a great deal of support, and that we’ll get through this together.”

A funeral will be held next weekend in Claremont. Leach said transportation will be made available for players who wish to attend.

Regarding the investigation of Hilinski’s death and suicide note, Leach thought the Pullman police and coroner’s office would be “wrapping up” soon, and communication with police has been good.

Asked if he’s had a similar experience in his coaching career, Leach said, “Never like this.”




  • Dick/Johnson

    Of all the kind words said about Tyler, Mike might’ve said it best:
    “…He was an incredible young man and everyone who had the
    privilege of knowing him was better for it.”

    • art thiel

      I wish he’d said that during the teleconference, but I’m glad he said it somewhere.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Early reports were that he left a suicide note. Do we have any clue what it said?

    • art thiel

      Nothing so far. I’m sure the police are using it as the basis for interviewing those who were around him. Since presumably there was no crime against others, I’m not sure they will release it. What say you, counselor?

      • Bruce McDermott

        Crime is not my specialty. My guess is that the investigation would need to be concluded at the very least, and thereafter his family’s request could probably seal it…assuming it was not subject to some sort of FOIA equivalent at some point…

  • Steed

    My brother killed himself. I know my Mom has never gotten over it and never will. It’s a loss that doesn’t heal.

    If anybody out there is thinking about it, please talk to someone and get help. No matter how bad it seems, it can get better. Just call and talk to someone (1 800 273 8255) please. Give yourself another day, another chance for things to change. Don’t give up.

    • Kirkland

      My deepest sympathies, Steed.